From enchanting cultural experiences to glittering nightlife and entertainment, there is much waiting to be discovered in Macao
Located on the south coast of China, just 40 miles from Hong Kong, Macao retains an old-world charm, with a unique Chinese and Portuguese heritage. Comprising the Macao Peninsula, the two islands Taipa and Coloane, and the reclaimed area of Cotai, Macao is also a destination buzzing with excitement.
It might not be as well known as its famous neighbour Hong Kong, but Macau is equally if not more intriguing. Here are 20 reasons why it deserves to be your next stop in Asia.
#1 The perfect stopover- One of the fastest growing and most vibrant destinations in Asia, Macao makes a perfect two- or three-night addition to a Far East holiday or stopover en route Down Under. And reaching the region couldn’t be easier – fly into Macao’s international airport or arrive via Hong Kong and take the one-hour fast ferry ride from the airport or downtown.
#2 Unique heritage
Macau was Europe’s last colony in Asia. The southern Chinese city was a Portuguese outpost for more than 400 years. The territory was leased to Portugal in 1557 and was eventually handed back to China on December 20 1999. Those 400 years of Portuguese rule certainly left their mark; from architecture to food and even language, the unique assimilation of Chinese and Portuguese cultures in Macau has made it one of a kind.
#3 Big thrills
Calling all daredevils. If you’re an adrenaline junkie or know one, then Macau has just the attraction for you. Macau Tower is home to the Guinness World Record holder for the highest commercial bungy jump in the world. Situated at the top of the striking Macau Tower, jumpers leap from a platform 233m (764 ft) above the ground and experience the ultimate free fall experience.
#4 sky high
Approximately 10 minutes’ drive from Senado Square rests the 338-metre Macau Tower, where visitors can not only enjoy breathtaking 360-degree views of Macao from the Observation Lounge or revolving restaurant, but also those with an adventurous side can bungee jump or test their mettle and ‘walk in the sky’ instead, on the outer perimeter that encircles the tower. It’s not one for the faint-hearted!
#5 Richest city in Asia
With a per capita GDP of US$91,000, Macau is the fourth richest territory in the world and the richest city in Asia. Most of these riches come from its huge gambling industry. In the past five years, its casinos have generated US $70 billion in taxes, making it the largest gambling centre in the world. Macau is so rich it even pays its residents. The Macau Government gives all of its permanent residents an annual dividend (about US$1,200) and non-permanent residents receive about US$670 each year. This amount has remained unchanged since 2014.
Away from the glitter of Macao’s resorts, nestled against a hill in Coloane, is one of the destination’s most popular attractions, the Macao Giant Panda Pavillion at Seac Pai Van Park. Home to two giant pandas, Kai Kai and Xin Xin, the attraction made headlines last June when Xin Xin gave birth to twins – the first pandas to be born in the destination. The pavilion is a 3,000-square-metre state-of-the-art facility where visitors can watch the fluffy creatures playing, eating and bathing. For those who want to relax and unwind, Coloane also has more to offer – beautiful walking trails, leafy squares and tranquil beaches.
#7 Pink Dolphin Watching Cruise
Pink dolphins are found between Hong Kong and Macau. It is found in the Pearl River Delta which is home to Indo-pacific Humpback dolphins, Sousa chinensis. These dolphins are the world’s pinkest dolphins which are pinker than the Boto dolphins in the Amazon River in South America. Such a rare experience that Macao offers.
#8 Market heaven
Macao has plenty to attract shoppers, from designer malls to traditional street markets. Within The Historic Centre of Macao, the streets are lined with antique shops and you’ll find a host of delicious cakes and pastries here. The Taipa Flea Market is held every Sunday in Taipa Village if you want a taste of true Macao tradition. With stalls selling handicraft and boutique items against a backdrop of live performances such as Portuguese folk dance, lion dance, magicians and street paintings, it’s a shopping/entertainment scene that does not disappoint.
#9 A culinary wonderland
Shaped by its Portuguese and Asian heritage, Macao has a diverse and incredible array of culinary experiences. Along with Portuguese, Chinese and all kinds of international cuisines, is the local Macanese food, which combines influences from both China and Portugal as well as South America, Africa and India. Signature Macanese dishes worth a try include 'Galinha à Africana' (African chicken made with coconut and spices) and Macanese Chilli Shrimps.
Whether at a sizzling side-street wok or in a traditional pastelaria (pastry shop) on the well-known Rua do Cunha (‘Food Street’), there is much of Macao’s mouth-watering cuisine to savour. Some must-try items found on street stalls are ‘pork chop buns’, while other treats include Pastéis de Nata (Portuguese egg tarts).
#10 Cheaper hotel stays
Living the five-star luxury lifestyle generally costs less in Macau than neighbouring Hong Kong. On Weekdays, especially, room rates can be a real steal and you can get more room for your buck. Several five-star hotels offer reasonable rates, often with extra privileges thrown in, including Mandarin Oriental Macau, JW Marriott and the Venetian Macao. Better still, when an ordinary hotel suite just won’t do, consider staying at one of the mansions at Sofitel Macau. If you’re going to stay, you might as well stay in style!
#11 Entertain yourself
No trip is complete without a visit to the bright lights of Cotai. Here, you’ll find some of Macao’s world-class theatrical and musical productions, with ‘The House of Dancing Water’ high on the must-see list. Featuring 90 minutes of spectacular high-dive acrobatics, high-wire stunts and fountain effects, it’s an awe-inspiring show sure to take your breath away! Macao has also welcomed many major artists over the years. Recent visits include the Rolling Stones and Bon Jovi.
#12 Enjoy the ride
Batman fans behold – prepare yourself for a pulsating adventure on ‘Studio City’s Batman Dark Flight 4D Experience’. This action-packed ride includes the best in audio design, visual graphics and simulation technology as you combat the villains of Gotham. Or, ride the Golden Reel, the world’s highest figure-8 Ferris wheel, where you can admire the views from 130 metres up in the air. Operating hours are from 11am to 8pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 9pm on Saturday and Sunday, so why not take in the views during the day and romanticise amongst the lights at night?
#13 Taste the world’s first fusion food
Macau was recently designated a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy in recognition of its 400-plus-year-old culinary legacy. Many believe that the city’s own Macanese cuisine was the original fusion cuisine. With a history dating back over 450 years, Macanese cuisine blends southern Chinese cuisine and Portuguese ingredients, spices and cooking techniques from Macau’s colonial days. One of the best places to try authentic Macanese cuisine in Macau is Riquexo Cafe. This Macanese canteen was created by the wonderful, 101-year-old Aida de Jesus, unofficial godmother of Macanese cuisine.
#14 Hiking in Macao: Taipa Grand Trail
Even though Macao is famous for its casinos and entertainment but only a few know that you can also go on nature hikes and have fun amidst such trails. If you have less time in hand, then go to Taipa Grand Trail from where you can enjoy the breath-taking view of Taipa Island. It is the highest point of the island where you will witness the view of The Venetian, the Parisian Macao, Macao Tower, etc. The panoramic sceneries over here are just gorgeous.
#15 Chimelong Ocean Kingdom
You can encounter the marine life closely in this huge aquarium. You will be able to witness whale sharks, penguins, polar bears, dolphins, beluga whales. It is one of the largest aquariums in the world which has also been awarded the 2014 Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement for theme parks.
#16 Macau Grand Prix
For ardent fans of car racing, what better way to spend a trip than at one of the most internationally prestigious events on the motoring calendar, the legendary Macau Grand Prix. Combining the best Formula 3 racers in the world, the roars of crowds and an adrenalin-filled atmosphere, it’s four days of non-stop headturning excitement on one of the most challenging street circuits in the world. From 16th-19th November 2017.
#17 Macao International Dragon Boat Races
Macao boasts a unique festival culture – plan ahead and make sure you arrive in time to see it for yourself.
The Dragon Boat Festival in May commemorates the heroic poet Wat Yuen, who protested against corruption by drowning himself. Today, the celebrations revolve around the popular International Dragon Boat Races contested on Nam Van Lake. Many local and foreign teams participate and it has become one of the destination’s favourite outdoor events as crowds gather to watch races to the sound of beating drums.
#18 Spending A Night at The Venetian
Even though The Venetian Macau is a luxury hotel. Us, travellers can enjoy this seventh largest building in the world. The hotel replicates the vibes of Venice where you can find canals and several other architectural icons. Spending a night here is worth every penny.
#19 Raise a glass
With neon lights of impressive hotel architecture and glitzy casinos, cocktails aplenty and pulsing beats pumped out by world-renowned DJs, Macao really is the place of dreams! High-end hotels and resorts mean there’s no shortage of stylish bars and clubs. Visit Sky 21, a sleek club in the AIA Tower, with terrace views, or Club Cubic, which has a laser-lit dance pool. For a laidback drink, some live music and an atmosphere that feels a little close to home, visit the Old Taipa Tavern in Taipa Village. For a chic and eclectic feel, try Bar Azul, where you can enjoy a selection of premium liqueurs and champagne.
#20 Where east meets west
Head on to Taipa Island, joined to downtown Macao by three bridges and discover a village with an exotic fusion of East and West. With classic villas and old-style Chinese shops, stroll along Rua do Cunha, also known as ‘Food Street’ and sample delicious treats such as almond cookies and beef jerky. While modern Macao dazzles with impressive architecture and luxury resorts, Taipa Village offers a more traditional experience.
Now stop looking here and there, go and book your tickets.